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SURPRISING QUALITIES EMPLOYERS VALUE IN CANDIDATES

As the hustle and family time of the holidays moves further behind us and we get back into the normal work routine, do you find yourself thinking it may be time you should explore new career opportunities? Hiring in general and technology hiring for top talent continues to be strong.

Here are some qualities that have nothing to do with technology that IT Hiring Managers also consider when selecting top talent for their team…

Adaptability – Have you been in the same organization and a loyal dedicated employee for 10 – 15 + years?  Although stable employment is very important and people who switch jobs every 6 – 12 months repeatedly may be seen as “job-hoppers”, being in a certain type of organization for many years may put someone at higher risk of not working out when they do accept a new job.  Often, we will see someone who has been with one company for a long time and then their first new job change is short term.  There can be many reasons for this including being a little rusty on deciding the type job that fits them; but, if the organization they left didn’t offer the ability for someone to keep their adaptability skills honed, they may have gotten so good at the way one company works that they have trouble getting acclimated to a new organization.

  • Think about how long you have been with the same company and if it’s been the same environment and they have done things the same way for over 10 years it may be time for a change
  • Consider whether you should change jobs, even if you are doing the same work in a new place, to sharpen your adaptability skills and demonstrate that you can be successful in new and different environments

Communication – Just because you are a people person and can talk with anyone, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to improve on your communication skills.  If you have ever had someone comment on your “chattiness” or looked at their watch when you are talking with them, you should dive deeper into that.  It could be limiting your opportunities for promotion and lowering your scores on job interviews.

Are you “chatty”? There are many reasons and we’re not psychologists, but over the years we’ve seen this being a factor for a candidate being passed over for a job.  We’ve seen this from people across all ranges of skills, backgrounds, years of experience and here is some of why being long-winded is not sought after.

  • It may be an indication of poor communication skills. First and foremost, who has time to spend 45 minutes talking about something that should have been covered in 10 minutes.
  • If you are in IT, that can mean that you aren’t self-confident in your skills or you think you are underqualified for the position. It may be subconscious; but, if you can get the conversation off track and keep talking about anything, you can keep the interviewer from getting all their questions asked. If they run out of time and can’t cover everything they needed to discuss in order to assess your technical skills and fit for the position, you will probably be eliminated anyway so you might as well shorten your answers and let them drive the interview.
  • Another reason may be that you aren’t able to focus your answer on just what the interviewer is asking. This may indicate an inability to prioritize on what’s most important.  Most businesses don’t have the luxury of giving someone the time to do a perfect job, time to address every requirement.  Being able to prioritize what you need to communicate and only share what answers their questions, also demonstrates an ability to prioritize tasks and focus your time on what is your most important business need.
  • Don’t try to take control of the interview by talking on and on. I once had a colleague who asked one question at the beginning of the interview and the candidate could not be gracefully interrupted for the next 45 minutes.  No surprise they didn’t get offered the position.

Interpersonal skills and polish – The lines between technical IT talent and business continue to blur in many organizations.  Just because you spend much of your day with your ear buds in, doesn’t mean that you might not also be expected to interact with business stakeholders, end users, and other non-technical people.  The movement toward agile methods and the manner that different organizations apply agile process could drive increases in the likelihood of direct interaction between the end-user and IT.

  • Your technical peers may have an easier time of trusting your work and technical skills while you are wearing flip flops and shorts; but, that doesn’t mean someone who is not technical and doesn’t always work in your vicinity will be as accepting.
  • It is human nature for people to feel most comfortable around people who are like themselves. Even though diversity is healthy and makes for a more productive environment, you can push the limits of casual by not presenting a polished professional image or being able to fit in with the communication style with the people you are meeting. It’s been pretty acceptable for IT to be casually dressed; but, if you don’t know someone, do you have to take your flip flops off or go barefoot into a work meeting?
  • Polish and interpersonal skills include having the consideration for those around you to make them comfortable and be proud to have you as a coworker.

SUMMARY – Technical people sometimes focus too much on their technical skills.  Be aware that non-technical skills can often be more important than technical expertise.

 

 

 

The 5 Questions To Ask In A Job Interview

It has become the custom for job interviews to end with a question directed at the candidate – “Do you have any questions for me?” The question signals the close of the interview. While it’s tempting to snap out the word “no” and escape the hot seat, doing so may result in automatic failure of the interview.

When you ask questions at the close of your job interview you show the interviewer or committee you were listening while they spoke. You convey your interest in the company and showcase what a good fit to the team you would be. Your questions garner insight into how you would fit into a specific role and where you would devote your energy. Questions are critical to the success of your interview.

Here are the top 5 essential questions to ask in an interview – no matter what the job.

  1. What would you expect from me to accomplish in the first 90 days on the job?
    By asking this question it lets them visualize you in the role. You also get a better understanding of their expectations.
  2. May I meet some of the people I would be working with or have a short tour?
    While this question may seem a bit presumptuous, it signals to the interviewer that you are taking the time seriously and have a vested interest in the position. Also, by getting an impromptu tour, you get to see the office firsthand, observe colleague interaction, and take note of workspace details (such as lighting, noise, and cleanliness).
  3. I recently read that…
    This is the time to ask something specific about the company or organization you would be working for if you land the job. As a good rule of thumb, be prepared and read up on the company prior to the interview. The company website is a great place to start your research. By asking something specific about the company based on what you read, you build instant rapport with the committee members and show off your research skills.
  4. How would you define success for the person in this position?
    This question helps you understand what the job will entail and also presents company expectations. You may be able to gain insight into the daily routine, how many hours you are expected to work, and how leadership views success.
  5. Do you see any reason why I might not be a good fit for the job?
    While this question may be difficult to ask, it is a great way to close your questions because it allows for an opportunity to clarify any misconceptions that may have popped up during the interview. This will give you a chance to elaborate on a topic or present your skills in a positive light. You will leave the interviewer with one last tidbit of why you are the right person for the job.

+1 – Bonus Tip:
Always remember to have a list of questions to ask prior to your interview. You don’t want to show up empty-handed or forget to ask a few questions at closing. Don’t grill your interviewing committee with twenty questions, but reserve a handful, like the ones listed above.

 

 

4 Tips for Writing a Short, Focused and Impactful Resume

A resume is an important stepping stone to getting you an interview. If you applied online, assume your resume will be the view of a computer screen and you want the most impactful information to fit on that screen. With that in mind, here are a few easy tips to keep your resume short, sweet, and successful.

  1. Less is more.
    Many professional resume writers will attest to this: it’s much easier to write a long resume than a shorter one. Being concise on paper requires strategy, effort, and time. It’s much easier, but less effective, to provide a laundry list of weak job descriptions. Putting energy into a long resume “booklet” is a waste of time, because most hiring managers and recruiters are interested only in the professional summary and the most recent experience — both of which should fit easily within the first page.  A long-winded resume also signals that you’re unable to prioritize your skills and accomplishments, and prioritization is an essential skill in most professions. If you’re struggling to edit your resume down to size, ask yourself, “Does it relate closely to the job I’m applying for? Does this sentence make a strong impression on the reader?” If the answer is no, chances are it should be axed.
  1. Tell the hiring manager/recruiter/ talent acquisition specialist about your accomplishments, not your departmental objectives
    Your resume is not a copy of your job description. Resumes can come across weak and passive, merely listing what an employee was “responsible for.” Many resumes fall victim to this trap when instead they should highlight your skills and specific achievements. It’s the difference between “responsible for the network team” and “reorganized the network team to a 3-tier support model which improved our response time.” The latter is active, specific, and impactful – all qualities which a hiring manager is seeking.  By eliminating, or at least significantly abbreviating, the list of mere duties and responsibilities, your resume will become much more concise and focused, demonstrating what hiring managers really want: someone with a penchant for action. If it is important, include it, if not, cut it.
  1. There is strength in numbers.
    When listing your professional accomplishments, try to quantify as many of them as possible. Vague accomplishments prompt red flags. Specific examples like project completed before deadline (time and/ or money saved), reducing software license costs, size of team you managed directly (headcount), budgets, etc. help sell your resume to get you that interview you desire.
  1. Formatting IS important.
    Certainly, the content of your resume is the most important element of all, but even the most accomplished candidates can shoot themselves in the foot with poor formatting. Common blunders include text that is too frilly or too large (can seem juvenile) or text that is too small (can be illegible). Additionally, unless you’re applying to a truly out-of-the-box creative agency, most employers are looking for clean, simple fonts, not revolutionary typography. Indeed, the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that scan, parse, and rank your resume may choke if they encounter an uncommon font style. The moral of the story: keep font and formatting clean and simple. A resume with a sentence spilling onto an additional page will appear less assertive and compelling, sloppy even. The resume is often the first visual impression you make, so make sure it’s a strong one!

Assessments as Part of the Job Process

You have been through a phone interview and a face-to- face interview, now you are asked to take an assessment.

What does that mean?  Many employers use assessments as part of the interview tool kit.

We spoke to Leadership Alliance (http://www.leadershipall.com), a company that does assessments and asked questions we thought might be helpful to you:

Why are companies using assessments? 

Hiring managers are looking for an objective measure to help assess the critical competencies in the role.  Information from assessments can enhance understanding of a potential employee’s personality, preferred workstyle, culture, and skills.  Assessments focus on various factors, but overall, they are measuring cognitive abilities and work-related personality.

These assessments are expensive. A company is making an investment in the candidate and wants to predict fit and job success for the candidate and employer.

How are the results of my assessment used?

A good company uses this information as a data point.  Companies who use it appropriately use it consistently and as one factor in addition to traditional sources such as references, interviews, job track record, and academic performance.

Can I prepare for the test?

You can’t prepare.  The best thing to do is to get a good night’s sleep, eat breakfast, relax, don’t overthink it.  Our note – read the instructions carefully before starting.  If the assessment is online and you can choose when and where to take it, make sure you are in a quiet environment and have a glass of water available and turn off your phone. If you get stressed, take 3 deep breaths and get refocused.

Can people “game the tests” and manipulate the results?

People can try, but the test usually picks it up

What if a test finds my weaknesses?

If you are weak in something, that may not be an issue for the company, but it is important to know where you are most likely to find success in your new company. Often this information lets the prospective employer where they need to coach you to improve. Remember, everyone has opportunities for improvement.

What if I have a learning disability or dyslexia?

It is important to let the tester know if you need an accommodation when taking the test.

What if English is not my first language?

Notify the person giving the test that English is not your first language.

Final thoughts?

Companies give assessments because they want to know if you will thrive and be successful in their organization.  So, be yourself and don’t stress about the test!

Making the Most of Multitasking with Technology

The rapid advancement of technology throughout the last few decades has led to huge leaps forward in our ability to collaborate, produce, and multitask in the workplace.  There is always something vying for your attention, and what begins as an easy way to streamline work and get more done at once can quickly become a confusing mess of tasks and programs to keep track of. By optimizing your technology and making the most of your multitasking capabilities, you can maximize the upside while minimizing the downside of the never-ending workflow.

  1. Consolidate

Most people are guilty of it: you have multiple programs that all essentially do the same thing. Did you share those notes on Slack or Evernote? Did you send that message from your personal or your work email?  It’s easy to see how the relative convenience of these applications can become horribly complex.

To eliminate this problem, you need to consolidate as much as possible. Pick the platform that best fits your needs and stick to it. At most, you should only have separate calendars for work and personal events, but the easiest will be to have everything consolidated into one. This enables you to see your day at a glance, rather than having to check multiple calendars against one another before confirming a meeting. This principle can be applied across all your technologies. Wherever possible, consolidate down to just one email, client, collaboration platform, and storage service.

  1. Integrate

The ability to integrate services, devices, and platforms into one another is incredibly helpful when it comes to getting more done at once, and you should take full advantage of this to optimize your multitasking. Now that you’ve pared down to just one calendar, set it up on both your work computer and mobile devices then integrate it into as many of the services you use as possible, so that you can multitask seamlessly between whatever device or program you happen to be using at the time.  This way, the next time you need to send an email confirming a meeting on your calendar while on a conference call, you can do it all from a single device.

  1. Automate

Automation is where multitasking starts to get really cool.  Services like If This, Then That (IFTTT.com) allow you to consolidate, integrate, and automate the various technologies in your life in a big way. From your car to your weather app, these user-friendly “applettes” allow you to automate your multitasking completely. You can mute your phone upon entering the office, send a text to your spouse when you leave, and have your garage door open when your car is in the driveway without even lifting a finger. Whether you use IFTTT or find other ways to automate your tech to best fit your individual needs, being able to automate your tasks will be the way that you turn the tables from having to multitask yourself to having multiple tasks complete themselves while you focus your attention on the areas that need it the most.

Finally, stop spending mental energy trying to multitask and automate these optimized technologies to do the legwork for you. Multitasking doesn’t have to be a trial-by-fire splitting of your attention. With the capabilities we have today, it can instead mean getting to focus on just one thing at a time, while you’re still simultaneously “doing it all.”

3 Tips to Boost your Credibility at the Office

Success in your career is contingent on one important thing: getting people to take you seriously. If you want to move forward in your career, then you need to make sure that you’re building credibility with the people that you’re working with. Here are a few things that you can do to build more credibility with coworkers, your boss, and hiring managers:

  1. Be a Good Listener
    People love to talk about themselves, and they want to be heard. When people are talking about themselves, it actually stimulates a portion of the brain to trigger pleasurable emotions.  If you want to make a good impression with someone, then you should ask questions and let them talk. This process will form social bonds and increase the likelihood that they will have a favorable memory of the interaction.
  2. Do Your Homework and Take Action
    It’s important to know what you’re talking about to add valuable insights and information to the project. The best way to provide value to the project is by researching the topic and preparing in advance so that you show up to the meeting with good insights to share with the group. Make sure to follow through with the things that you’re suggesting. You don’t want to be the person who is all talk and no action. The follow-up is even more important than the presentation of the idea.
  1. Master the Art of Public Speaking
    Whether you’re sitting in an interview or presenting an idea in a board meeting, you need to have the skills to clearly and succinctly share your message with the group. Pay attention to small details, such as the intonation of your voice, how many times you use filler words like “um”, and the clarity and emotion of your words as you speak. Try to incorporate stories into your presentations, stories capture the attention of everyone in the room and they leave a stronger impression than boring facts and statistics.

By implementing these tips, you can improve your confidence in the workplace, and that confidence will naturally encourage people to take you seriously. Make sure to maintain this confidence and stay humble at the same time, because finding the right balance will help you achieve higher levels of success in your career.

Enhance your career through employer paid training and development

On average over $1,200 is spent per employee every year on direct learning expenditures (Fortune.com). According to a report cited by Monster, employee training and development is a $4.5 billion industry and an important part of an employee compensation package.

Depending on your goals, you may be eligible to utilize the learning and development benefit for tuition reimbursement, technical skill enhancement and certification, leadership seminars or management effectiveness training.

Why does your company pay for learning and development?  Most employers find that offering this benefit results in a more engaged employee and results in higher retention.  44% of employees surveyed (HBR.org) consider employer paid training to be more important than a salary increase.

If you are not taking advantage of the opportunity for paid skill and learning enhancement, you should!

A few tips: Make sure to research the opportunity that interests you and know why.  Speak to your supervisor and make sure your interest in additional education or training is known. Find out about the approval process. In addition to your own training plan, take advantage of companywide seminars and training opportunities.

If your company does not currently offer the option, below are a few ways to make it happen: 

Build a business case:

Create a mini cost-benefit analysis. Show why an investment in you is a win for your employer. Research the skills-training programs your competitors and industry leaders employ, come prepared with some quantitative information on why it pays to invest in your training, and try to find current or recent projects and skills gaps in which additional training could be helpful. All of this information will help your boss make a case for the development investment.

Tailor your request:

In a perfect world, the training and development budget would be unlimited. You need to set your expectations appropriately and make sure that what you’re asking to be funded is within reason and relevant to the business. Get specific when you ask about developmental opportunities – find new technologies or skills that can add immediate value. Be reasonable in your requests for a learning budget and be specific about what you want to accomplish and how it can help the organization.

Prepare for the meeting:

Armed with your cost benefit analysis, and the information about why the training will be a win-win, making a learning budget request should be easy. It’s probably not every day that you have cause to build a business case and petition leadership for a budget. For that reason, even the process of asking for employer-paid training is a great developmental opportunity.

Don’t be discouraged your request isn’t approved right away. Continue to look for development opportunities to help the organization. Your ambition and acumen won’t go unnoticed, and you may find yourself getting some once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities out of the deal.

5 Prep tips for a Video Interview!

5 Prep Tips for a Video Interview

Video interviews can be a great way to connect, but can also be full of potential pitfalls. These five steps can help you to prepare for a video interview and increase your chances of making a positive impression.

Test Your Equipment

Test your computer and your webcam that you will use for the interview. Make sure that your internet is fast enough to video chat in real time, and familiarize yourself with how your webcam works and where the volume and screen brightness controls are. Check your volume and see if your microphone picks up your speech well. Test your equipment in advance of your interview so that if you encounter problems you will have some time to fix them.

Practice

Ask a friend or family member to help you prepare by conducting video chats. Talking through video can be a little unsettling, and the fact that you can see yourself during the chat can distract many people. Practice looking straight at the camera, rather than the screen, and ask your friend or family member for feedback. This is also a great time to determine what computer heights and angles are most flattering for you.

Prepare an Appropriate Location

If you have reliable internet and a home office, then conducting the video interview at home may be a suitable option. Be sure that you schedule the interview for a time when you will have some privacy, and when any children or animals are out of the house or are being supervised in a non-adjacent room.

Carefully assess the background that will appear in the interview. You should try to find a background which is fairly plain and isn’t distracting. Arrange some lights so that your face is lit and there are no major shadows, but avoid placing lights directly behind you, since they can interfere with the camera’s ability to focus. Stack some books under your laptop if you are using a built-in camera so that you are eye level with the camera.

Research and Prepare

A video interview is quite similar to an in-person interview. Research and prepare for the interview much as you would for an in-person interview. Spend some time researching the employer and the position. Make a list of any questions that you have so that you can refer to it during the interview. Give some thought to how you will respond to any standard interview questions that you may be asked.

Sit down in front of your camera and practice responding to interview questions. Watch your posture and body language – do you appear confident, or are you fussing with your hands or hunching forward? Practice speaking clearly and calmly, and rehearse a bit in the interview clothing that you intend to wear so that you can spot any potential wardrobe issues ahead of time.

Be Prepared for Technical Issues

Anytime you work with technology there is the potential for something to go wrong. Testing your equipment should eliminate many potential issues, but you may still run into problems on the day of your interview. Internet downtime, power outages, and even webcam issues may throw a kink into your video interview.

It is best to have some backup plans in case these issues occur. If possible, have another computer on standby. Plan a backup location where you can conduct the interview if your internet or power goes out. Make sure that you’re prepared with a phone number so that you can reach the employer in case something does happen.

Can a Career Agent benefit you?

Do actors wait until they want a new role before they work with an Agent?  Never! Does a baseball player wait until he is headed to free agency to connect with an Agent?  No!  Actors and professional athletes always have someone watching out for their best interests.  A good Agent is always working for them – looking for new opportunities, understanding the individual’s goals, and seeking to find the best fit professionally, personally and financially.

A good Career Agent will do the same for you!  Candidates are frustrated by a job market they see as dominated by online portals, anonymous job postings and no responses from companies after their friend gave their boss their resume for a position on their team where they are a perfect fit.  A resume can easily be submitted and lost. Career Agents interview you, understand your career goals, timing, salary requirements, career history and culture you desire.  They work in parallel with clients seeking talent across a wide range of functions within technology. When agents submit you for a position, they stay in touch and active throughout the process.  Your resume is not lost in the application process; instead, they demonstrate why you will be a good fit for the company’s position/organization and follow up for feedback, interviews and next steps.  Your Career Agent will work with you to represent your best interests in terms of salary, benefits and start date and communicate what you need to accept a company’s offer.

Career Agents help you navigate the complexities of a job change and help you position yourself to achieve your career goals and help you through the resignation and transition process. Bottom line, Career Agents help you reach your professional goals better and faster than you could do with just a regular recruiter, or a friend who hands a hiring manager your resume, or applying through a web portal on your own. Your Agents’ goal is to be your life long career advisor and to create a win-win for you and your new employer.

3.5 Reasons why attending an IT Conference every single year can help your career!

Conference Attendees1. Network with your peers. This is an opportunity to meet new people from other companies. It is also important to visit with prior and current co-workers or classmates and get to know them on a more personal level. These are great people to build relationships with for multiple reasons:

a. You may reach out to these people to see how their company is using a new technology or transforming into an agile environment

b. Get non-biased references or opinions about a new technology you are evaluating and thinking about implementing

c. Learn how other companies operate and what makes their cultures great

2. Invest in Yourself! You will be seen by your boss, peers and others that you network with at the conference as a person who wants to keep current with your industry and who cares about keeping up to date with technology and best practices. The educational component of a conference can expose you to new ways to be more productive. Many people who attend conferences return back to work revitalized and more passionate about their work.

3. Hot new technologies.  Take time to meet with vendors. This is a great way to gain insight on what new technologies are available. You also have an opportunity to build relationships with vendors. Those vendors may be the person you need to reach in the middle of a critical project and if you know someone at that company they may be able to help get you connected to the right person to solve your problem. You can also pick up free giveaways or participate in raffles from vendors at many Exhibit Halls.

3.5 Have fun! Attending a conference should be work mixed with fun! Many conferences have activities such as happy hours, late night parties, and golf tournaments. Treat yourself to    an extra day in the city you are visiting. Plan to come in town early or stay an extra day at the at the end of the trip. Mix business with pleasure and keep your career trajectory on track all at the same time.